Category: Blog

Mit Auto, Zelt und zu Fuss auf der Südinsel in Neuseeland

Mit Auto, Zelt und zu Fuss auf der Südinsel in Neuseeland

Gästeblog von Theres Arnold-Curiger

Neuseeland 24. Oktober – 18. November 2017

Click here for translated English version here.

Via Singapur kamen wir nach zwei Tagen auf der Südinsel im sonnigen, aber kühlen Christchurch an. Pyn und Silvia holten uns am Flughafen ab und schon ging’s über die Berge Richtung Kaikoura. Dank unserer bequemen Campingausrüstung schliefen wir schon die erste Nacht, mit Meeresbrandung im Hintergrund, wunderbar.

Neuseeland‘s Schafe sind kein Klischee. Es gibt 30 Mio. Schafe und nur 4.7 Mio. Einwohner. Schafe, meist schwarze Kühe und Hirsche – überall immer wieder. Die Hänge voll gelber Ginstern sehen super aus. Typisch sind auch die einspurigen Brücken, Autobahnen gibt’s sozusagen nicht, aber gute Highways.

Ein „Must to do“ whale watching mit einem Piper bringt uns sofort in Ferienstimmung. In einem Fischerbeizchen genossen wir feine Meeresfrüchte und danach rundete eine Bier Degustation bei einer Bekannten von Pyn den Tag ab. Im aufgeweckten Hanmer Springs machten wir bei wunderbarem Wetter die erste Wanderung auf den Mt. Isobel (1319 m) mit einer eindrücklichen Aussicht, die Aelplermakronen danach schmeckten umso besser.

Von Marahau brachte uns das Wassertaxi – mit Sicht unterwegs auf den „Big Apple“, auf lauschige Buchten, Robben – nach Totaranui, dem Ausgangspunkt für unseren ersten Great Walk, den dreitägigen Coast Track. Wer denkt, so eine Küstenwanderung ist ja nur flach, irrt sich gewaltig. Es geht rauf und runter im Regenwald oder über Sandstrände. Das Meer ist kitschig blau, wir sind fast allein. Hie und da überquerten wir spasseshalber vor der „low tide“ (Ebbe). Der Gang über die Muscheln war eine gratis Fussmassage! Unvergesslich bleibt uns das Zelten auf der Sandbank, wo uns Franzosen zum Muscheln suchen animierten.

Der Küste entlang bei Fox River sammelten wir eine Menge davon – ein exzellentes Nachtessen mmh! Ein weiteres Highlight waren die Glühwürmchen in der Höhle bei Punakaiki. Trotz Regen machten wir einen Rundgang zu den gewaltigen Pancakes Rock. Das Städtchen Greymouth machte seinem Namen alle Ehre, darum fuhren wir gleich weiter. Den weltbekannten Franz Josef Gletscher, welcher bis 425 m hinunterreicht, durften wir natürlich auch nicht verpassen. Die heissen Bäder nach dieser Wanderung im Regen taten richtig gut.

Verschiedene Walks mit teils irreal anmutenden Landschaften waren einfach traumhaft. Nach der Fahrt am Wanaka- und dem Hawea-Lake entlang, fast mutterseelenallein, liessen wir den Tag mit einem delikaten Mahl (butterzarte Lammschulter) in bestem Ambiente ausklingen. Einige Tracks waren wegen Schnee immer noch geschlossen, darum nahmen wir den Isthmus Peak in Angriff, diese Rundsicht – unglaublich!

Als Ausweichroute für den Routeborn Track begaben wir uns voll bepackt auf den viertägigen Greenstone Track zur gleichnamigen Hut. Der Name war nicht umsonst, so grüne Steine überall hatten wir zuvor noch nie gesehen. Der zweite Tag bei Regen, Wind und Sumpf über umgestürzte Bäume, durch eiskalte River, forderte uns. In der Kellar Hut konnten wir die Sachen am Ofen wieder trocknen. Bei Sonne und auf guten Wegen ging es zur längsten Etappe über den Mc Kellar Saddle zur Cellar Hut. Auf den unbewirteten Hütten waren wir jeweils etwa zwölf Personen. Zum Parkplatz am nächsten Tag war’s dann nicht mehr so weit.

Nach einem Ruhetag folgte frühe Tagwache in Lumsden mit dem Ziel Milford Sound, wo es anscheinend fast immer regnen soll. Der Highway schlängelt sich ein langes Tal hinauf, vorbei an Granitwänden und plötzlich steht man vor dem einspurigen Homer Tunnel (1954 erbaut, 1.2 km lang). Die Sonne schien, die Bootsfahrt unter Wasserfällen und Peaks mit Delphinen und Robben im Fjord war wirklich phänomenal!

Danach fuhren wir quer zur Ostküste nach Dunedin unter anderem zur steilsten Wohnstrasse der Welt mit 35% Gefälle. Bei Dämmerung waren wir einer Kolonie Kleinpinguinen auf der Spur. Weiter nördlich der Ostküste entlang bewunderten wir in Moreaki die alten Boulders, grosse Steinkugeln, die Struktur erinnerte uns an Schildkröten. Durch einen Fischer lernten wir eine weitere Delikatesse kennen. Die Whitebait sind kleine Fischli. Diese zusammen in Rührei gebraten waren himmlisch. Auf der Banks Peninsula sammelten wir ein letztes Mal Muscheln, flanierten durch das französisch angehauchte Akaroa bevor wir in Christchurch in einem top eingerichteten AirB&B eincheckten.

Spaziergänge durch die Stadt erinnerten uns überall an das starke Erdbeben von 2011. Es gibt immer noch etliche Geschäfte in Containern. Über 900 Gebäude wurden abgerissen. Überall wird gebaut, Strassen saniert, hübsch gemacht. Mit unvergesslichen Erlebnissen verabschiedeten wir uns von Pyn und Silvia; unseren perfekten Reiseleitern. Beim Stopp in Singapur trafen wir uns noch mit „z’Loretzä“ und genossen ein feines Dinner bevor wir wieder nach Hause flogen.

Driving, Camping & Trekking – South Island, New Zealand

Driving, Camping & Trekking – South Island, New Zealand

We were very happy that Theres and Walter, Silvia’s parents joined us for three weeks, travelling through the South Island, New Zealand.

Guest Blog Spot by Theres Arnold-Curiger

Please click here for the orginial blog post in German.

After arriving in Singapore for two days, we arrived in sunny but cool Christchurch on the South Island. Pyn and Silvia picked us up at the airport and off we went over the mountains towards Kaikoura. Thanks to our comfortable camping gear, we slept the first night, with the sea and surf in the background, a wonderful start.

New Zealand’s sheep are not a cliché. There are 30 million sheep and only 4.7 million inhabitants. Sheep, cows and deer – everywhere over and over again. The slopes are full of yellow ghosts like bushes, looking great. Typical are the single-lane bridges, there are no motorways and roads wind around the hills.

A “must do” whale watching with a private plane brings us immediately into holiday mood. In a fishing hamlet we enjoyed fine seafood and then finished off with a beer tasting at Pyn’s friends brewery. In the bright Hanmer Springs, we made our first hike on Mt. Isobel (1319 m) in wonderful weather with an impressive view, dinner afterwards tasted all the better.

From Marahau the water taxi took us – on a sightseeing tour to the “Big Apple”, in secluded bays, seals watching – to Totaranui, the starting point for our first Great Walk, the three-day Able Tasman Coast Track. Whoever thinks, such a coastal walk is only flat, is mistaken. It goes up and down in the rainforest and over sandy beaches. The sea is cheesy blue and often we are the only people around. Every now and then the track passed through a bay meaning we had to cross at low tide which was fun. The walk over the shells giving a free foot massage! Unforgettable remains the camping on the sandbank, where we were encouraged to search for mussels.

Along the coast at Fox River we collected a lot of mussels – an excellent dinner mmh! Another highlight was the fireflies in the cave at Punakaiki. Despite the rain, we made a tour of the huge pancakes rock. The town of Greymouth lived up to its name, so we drove straight through. Of course, we were not allowed to miss the world-famous Franz Josef Glacier, which reaches down to 425 m. The hot baths after this hike in the rain went down really well.

 

Different walks with some seemingly unreal landscapes were just fantastic. After driving along the Wanaka and Hawea-Lake, almost all alone, we ended the day with a delicious meal (butter-tender lamb shoulder) in the best ambience. Some tracks were still closed due to snow, so we tackled the Isthmus Peak, this panoramic view – unbelievable!

An alternative route for the Routeborn track (as it was closed due to bad weather) was the four-day Greenstone track to the same hut. The name was not in vain, we had never seen such green stones anywhere before. The second day of rain, wind and swamp over fallen trees, through ice-cold river, challenged us. In the Kellar Hut we were able to dry things on the stove. In the sun and on good roads we conquered the longest stage over the Mc Kellar Saddle for Cellar Hut. We were about twelve people in the unkempt huts. It was not so far to the car the next day.

After a rest day, an early daylight start and travelling continued from Lumsden to Milford Sound, where it seemed to almost always rain. The highway winds up a long valley, past granite walls and suddenly you are in front of the single-lane Homer Tunnel (built in 1954, 1.2 km long). The sun was shining, the Milford Sound cruise under waterfalls and seeing dolphins and seals in the fjord was really phenomenal!

Then we drove across to the east coast to Dunedin among other things the steepest residential street in the world with 35% gradient. At dusk, we were tracking a colony of small penguins. Further North of the east coast we marvelled in Moreaki the old boulders, big stone balls, the structure reminded us of turtles. Through a fisherman we got to know another delicacy, whitebait are little fishes. These fried together in scrambled eggs were heavenly. On the Banks Peninsula, we collected mussels one last time, strolled through the French-tinged Akaroa before we checked in to Christchurch in a top-rated AirBnB.

Walks through the city reminded us everywhere of the strong earthquake of 2011. There are still many shops in containers. Over 900 buildings were demolished. Everywhere is built, roads rehabilitated, made pretty. With unforgettable experiences we said goodbye to Pyn and Silvia; our perfect tour guides. On our Singapore stopover we met with relatives (Loretzae) and enjoyed a nice dinner before we flew back home.

 

 

 

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

Riding through Tavan Bogd, Altai Mountains Diary

This is our mostly unedited diary of 28 days unguided riding in Tavan Bogd with our own animals which purchased in Sagsai. The highlights are in red and the accompanying blog post, video and photos are here.

Day 0

  • Spent the day with Khannas family (Khannas is the horseman who we bought the animals off)
  • Shoed the horses
  • Helped herd the cows and caught the calfs.
  • Collected animals named the two horses, Gobi and Cosmo and the camel Floppy. Dog was already called Actus.

Day 1

  • Lost dog, horse boy took stake out at night and not put it back in properly, had to gallop 15 mins to go get it back from original family.
  • Khannas tries to get more $ out of us and asks us to rent another camel = NO
  • Riding smooth

Day 2

  • Khannas horse gone in the morning because used stake on dog
  • Pyn let dog loose and ran off while loading camel – dog came back just when we thought we’d lost it
  • Khannas came back on motorbike & boy
  • Pyn’s bday – girlfriend forgot birthday and had to be reminded
  • Horse boy walking with camel & dog
  • Drunk men got out of passing truck, truck revs spooked camel and started kicking and almost kicked dog multiple times. Pyn saved dog
  • Camp by river
  • Boy annoying and had to be watched in case he stole stuff, snickers etc.

Day 3

  • Got up at 6:30 am
  • Spoon stolen / swapped by horseman / boy
  • Put Vaseline on gobi open wound
  • Cosmo bleeding above foot
  • Khannas leaves
  • Herd of yak chased camel & dog – camel tried to kick dog again
  • Got milk & yoghurt from next ger , butter, cheese, cream
  • Ride 4 hours
  • Lots of birds along river, ducks, falcons, seagulls? Ravens/crows
  • Lots of nomads moving herds back to town away from mountains, seen trucks with gers on moving back to town for winter.

Day 4

  • getting ready and packing camel takes 4 hours,
  • Invited for lunch at next Ger, (100m)
  • Inspected gobi cut – said it was fine and loosened girth
  • Pyn tried to get on Cosmo, saddle not on properly because family loosened it, Cosmo spooked started kicking and kicked off the saddle and ran away. Gobi also broke away and ran after Cosmo up the hill. All the family watching. Pyn ran after horses. Silvia went after Floppy and Actus who also ran off in a different direction. Family, brother and friend went after on motorbike and helped get horses back. Fixed saddle. This all happened a minute after Pyn said “lets go before we embarrass ourselves”.
  • Silvia scared of dogs while approaching Ger – got off wrong side of horse, spooked the horse and got rope burns on hands. Pyn had to catch Gobi.
  • struggling to find good grass again. Found camp spot between two ger camps.
  • kids came had to be watched and tried to ‘steal’ woolly hat. Silvia didn’t cook beetroot properly (raw) and tried to serve it to kids. Dinner was at 9:30 under the stars.
  • Ripped a whole in outer tent fixed with duct tape

Day 5

  • getting ready takes 3.5 hours
  • Cosmo bleeding badly – take to next ger camp and they also said ok.
  • went over pass and arrived at lake at 2ish,
  • put camel on island as no food, both walked through the lake.
  • Not the best campsite so had to move horses a lot for feeding and watering
  • Actus starting to behave and understand ‘come’ and ‘sit’ and less likely to run away,
  • Weather still very good
  • First night feel ‘alone’
  • Still very little grass and no ger camps around lake.

Day 6

  • Rest day by Khar Nurr Lake
  • Lots of families moving stuff on truck back to winter home
  • Pyn lost Cosmo, it ran away up the valley. As soon as took the hobbles off it bolted. With peg and long leash. Dragging Pyn until couldn’t hold on anymore. Tried to follow it but delayed as had to saddle Gobi then borrowed a motorbike from ger and spent 30 mins looking for it. Everybody said saw it galloping down the valley. LOST HORSE.
  • No phone reception can’t call for help
  • Camel island, camel destroyed tree
  • Silvia hypothermic after going to camel island and washing hair
  • Pyn got camel back in wind and no sun no hypothermia.
  • Good weather still, warm at night
  • Trying to decide buy new horse or not
  • Actus behaving very well

Day 7

  • Pyn walking first, silvia on horse
  • Actus off leash, started chasing marmots and ran up a big hill. Refused to come down and waited at top for Pyn to get him, back on leash now. Watching us and just sitting there. Punished and tied back on to camel
  • Collected wood and left lake. Over pass and down onto another river. Lots of gers. Bought more milk and butter
  • Camped between two gers and were visited by many. One guy wanted to buy Cosmo and Actus
  • Local offered sheep in exchange for spare saddle.
  • Tried to cook fried potatoes & carrots but too many people came and had to give alot of the food away.
  • Silvia served raw potatoes like the beetroot to guests

Day 8

  • Rest day
  • Pyn wakes early, takes Actus off leash, moves camel, Actus sees dog across the river and chases it and almost drowns crossing the river.
  • Pyn saddles horse and goes after, finds him eating dead baby goat further down the river.
  • Pyn visits ger and Actus gets nipped by the dog he chased before. Silvia joins for breakfast in ger.
  • Try and fail to buy new horse.
  • Check out their eagle.
  • Pyn rides horse bareback back across the river
  • Do training with actus.
  • Actus very good at protecting and barking
  • Very hot.
  • Pyn help catch foals for ger.
  • Constantly disturbed by locals
  • Had to share food again, silvia cooked risotto.
  • Guy brought a tiny fish and we burnt it badly, he invited us to his ger for breakfast the next day

Day 9

  • Packing up and breakfast getting faster, 2hrs
  • Went to visit the guy,
  • Crossed river, realised with only one horse its difficult to cross rivers as one always gets wet and Silvia refuses to ride two on the horse.
  • Very pleasant, no dramas
  • Nice meandering river, lots of ‘S’ bends.
  • Actus on leash all day
  • Found a quiet secluded spot for camp and had a very nice evening undisturbed.
  • Beautiful sunset and can see the snow capped mountains in the distance.

Day 10

  • Actus well behaved all day.
  • Left beautiful spot, following the river. Not many gers, did 4hrs roughly, taking our time.
  • Still trying to buy a horse but everyone wants 1 million
  • Got phone reception but no 4g in tavan bogd
  • Went skinny dipping off the peninsular.
  • Camping in private area.
  • Bought more milk & yogurt
  • Disturbed just as about to eat as usual, shared food, they spotted the hot chocolate and asked for some
  • Boy looked through all gallery photos on iPhone and tablet
  • First bit of rain setting up tent
  • Lots of grass for camel & horse
  • Arrived at khurgen nurr/lake
  • Very beautiful scenery all around.
  • Went to sleep at 3am as watched whole 3 rd series of LINE OF DUTY, amazing

Day 11

  • Weather turned on us after 3 hours but made good progress on road. Rain, and snow higher up
  • we setup tent near 2 gers, constantly interrupted. No wood anywhere.
  • Generally colder as getting closer to the the mountains and the wind is blowing down from the mountains
  • Silvia had breakdown in morning, crying over her cuts.
  • Very quick packing up
  • Camel very tired today
  • Actus very well behaved all day. Trying to feed her lots.
  • Things getting expensive as no small change. Only 20,000 notes left
  • Started line of duty season 4, first two episodes.
  • Given ALOT of milk and cheese and butter from all the gers. Like 7 litres of milk
  • Decided not to buy another horse and to sell the saddle after we hear back from khannas.
  • Rain stopped in the evening, sunset and clouds were amazing.
  • Lucky as rain and thunder scared off most of the locals from visiting us. Only one boy stayed for dinner. He didn’t like it.

Day 12

  • Good mileage day. Followed path, stopped end of lake
  • Weather started very Cloudy dark changed to sunny but still brisk
  • Reached end of lake
  • Camp away from gers, next to nice river
  • Another camel island
  • Actus well behaved all day
  • Lots of wood at campsite

Day 13

  • Rest day
  • Actus disappeared but came back 5 mins later when called – very good
  • Met our first tourist
  • Just about to eat lunch and then locals arrive, lol
  • Camped by the river
  • Camel on island to eat
  • Didn’t do anything .

Day 14

  • Silvia fell into river while brushing teeth. Very funny but hurt her leg not badly
  • Started up khoton lake.
  • Missed the ranger permit station
  • Met two more tourists kiwis
  • Pyn lost buff
  • Camp in small woods
  • Almost full moon
  • Can’t tighten back girth strap on horse. It bent down to eat and saddle flew off the front.
  • Horse tries to bite when tighten

Day 15

  • Nice Drone shot morning
  • Met two groups of army guys. Checked permits, no problems
  • Gers seem more use to tourists asking for money and pain killers
  • Sold Kazak saddle for 55,000 to a boy and his mum
  • Camel already very tired
  • Silvia not scared of dogs anymore didn’t run away from a big group of dogs
  • Actus disciplined for running off to play with some dogs
  • Camped at end of khoton lake, just before military check point
  • Considering going to glacier if animals make it.
  • IPhone out of battery, can’t fly Drone, cable not working. Done not registers on tablet
  • Only covered 12k today. Need to do much more

Day 16

  • Went military check point, took along time but no problems
  • Camel has deep puncture wound on its neck, won’t stop bleeding. Must have been from tree while eating
  • Silvia walked through the river with only socks. V cold
  • Horse is still trying to bite when then girth and also lifting back legs sometimes
  • Changing landscape. Marshy land. Traversed around a hill and entered the valley to glacier. Valley,
  • very stony and lots of trees
  • Getting colder, rain came in, got tent up just in case
  • Found good camping spot,
  • Approached by 6 hongkys, invited for dinner, very nice.
    • BBQ sheep, +2 courses + alot of food for Actus and bones
    • Hongkys gave us iphone cable
    • Fire material +toilet paper +plastic bag + hot chocolate
  • Water from river is milky, possibly from clay
  • Pyn threw up at night, probably from raw sheep meat.
  • Hongkys guides Said 1 more day through bear valley and then the next day mountain, can’t cross if there is snow at the top. 4 days in total to the glacier.

Day 17

  • Silvia brought camel to the Hongkys guide to inspect the camel wound. Discussed it for a while and then got it to sit down, pushed it over and then Sat on it. Got a stick and dug around in the wound. Dug out a load of worms inside the wound. Camel vomited all over the guide. Sprayed the wound with deworming spray.
  • Advised not to go to the glacier with the camel in such a state, said come with us and they will look at the camel toe in the evening as could be a problem with that as well.
  • Left the valley back to the top of Khoton lake. On the opposite side to the way we came.
  • Started raining in the afternoon, high winds
  • Camped with the Hongkys again and the guide inspected the camel foot, was going to puncture it because thought it was an abscess but found it was a previously broken toe, an old wound.
  • Advised not to have rest days here because food is not good for animals.
  • Pyn had diarrhoea probably related to vomiting.
  • Horse still tired and therefore biting if saddle tight and lifting back legs if we want it to move faster.
  • According to honkies guide this is because horse tired

Day 18

  • GOT ready in 2 hours and on the road by 9:10 am. Hongkys last day and their vans came yesterday evening.
  • When sun rose weather turned nice, otherwise cold and wet before.
  • 5 th day moving and camel tired and so was horse so loaded rucksacks onto horse. Girth still slipping, so also dangerous to rideher.
  • Walked 6.5 hours, complete length of the lake to bridge. All animals v.Tired when arrived
  • Horse pain in the ass and have to pull along.
  • Seems lonely as perks up when sees other horses
  • Hongkys guide said meet us at the bridge and he would show us a good place to camp with good food for both camel and horse.
  • Met him at bridge, camping spot is not that nice, lots of dogs around and
  • Was planning resting two days now will probably only rest one day.
  • Concerned about whether enough time to get BACK TO tsengal to sell animals.
  • Went to bed at 8pm v. Tired.
  • Actus broke leash, barking at the other dogs. Let her run away and she came back in an hour and
  • slept untied by the tent.
  • Lost water filter

Day 19 & 20 – rest day

  • Silvia bought more milk & bread for 10000 turik. Tomorrow we try trading with goods again instead of money.
  • No phone signal here so can’t phone Bek about animals.
  • Moved camel to island as it wasn’t eating the grass.
  • Weather good but windy as exposed spot
  • Fucking dogs kept us awake barking all night
  • Very cold, frost on tent in morning
  • Dogs weed on tent and plastic

Day 21

  • Riding horse, load everything else on camel
  • Leaving khurgan nur and entering valley to tsengal
  • Pyn guided into wrong valley, lucky though as meet the hongkys horse man again at his house, gave us milk & bread
  • Long day, made good ground
  • 5 dogs followed us from the bridge when we camped and two were still following us at the end of the day, attracted to Actus. Think she had sexy time last night off the leash.
  • Had phone signal, txt bek, reconfirmed he would buy the animals. Will give actus to hannas, doesn’t really want him for himself. Very happy about the news but now committed to bringing the animals back to tsengal.
  • Camped near gers, shown ground water well.
  • Cooked very fast and efficiently as not much light left. Did cooking in front of family. Very nice then watching us.
  • Helped boy into his bareback horse as too short to get on

Day 22

  • Fast start, left at 912
  • Joined the river to tsengel
  • Pyn flew Drone, battery was too cold and crashed. Spent almost two hours looking for it. Lucky didn’t rain. GPS located it in the end. Two rotors broken have to see if it still works. Both very relieved when we found it. After one hour of searching.
  • Valley very brown and yellow, autumn. Beautiful
  • Afternoon started to get windy and bad weather chasing. Found a great camping spot, food for everyone. Put up tent in rain at 4 ish.
  • Pyn went to get milk & bread. Best bread we’ve had do far.
  • Reckon two more days to tsengal.
  • Both looking forward to getting rid of horse & camel
  • Saw a mine and now power lines.

Day 23 & 24

  • Rest day after gale force winds at night, had to move tent to more sheltered area
  • Cold day, rainy
  • Took picture with eagle
  • Wild Horses tried to mount Gobi
  • Prepared more fire starters
  • Found out there is no access to tsengal from this side of river. Frustrated about that, have to go back 4 hours to the bridge and cross to other side. Put the alarm for early morning at 6.30. Wind starts and a crazy windy night with not much sleep. Had to setup wind shelter with the containers.

Day 25

  • Pyn goes out first into the ice cold and then silvia. Leaving already 8.10 but it is painfully cold.
  • Against wind and animals resist hard to go upriver. 8km take us 3h30.
  • Then dog stays back and pyn goes get him. She must be in heat.
  • Then walk very long and meet german couple with truck. Paulchen.
  • Then plan to sleep at a ger late and meet guy from khoton lake again. Incredible. But he ‘touches’ pyn and his dad ‘touches’ silvia. Very annoying. Sleep there but give a lot, also give away Actus and have to pay 16k

Day 26

  • No more dog
  • Very warm
  • Into tsengel
  • Takes long to find only guesthouse and it has no shower or running water. But hairdresser is family who helped recover Horse the first time. Incredible. We give him the axe. Great coincidence.
  • Wash hair at hairdresser.
  • And we wait for eltai (brother beck) but he does not come
  • Go to bed but hotel locked up and toilet outside, wee out of first floor window and into glass

Day 27

  • Sell horse and camel for 1150,000, saddle for 90k and canisters for 20k.
  • Rest gave away as gifts.
  • Then car to sagsai
Buying Horses in Mongolia

Buying Horses in Mongolia

Unguided Horse Riding in Tavan Bogd National Park + Diary

This trip really was everything you can imagine it was. Every day we had severe highs and lows. The highs were as simple as all six of us cruising along in the sunshine and camping under the Milkyway. But when it was bad it was really bad, vomiting camels, escaping horses, drunk locals, horny dogs, injured animals, crashed drones and broken gear this trip had it all.

Looking back, purchasing and travelling with animals is a whole new experience and a great one at that. It is definitely one we will be doing again next year.

It all started on a sunny beach in Tonsai, Thailand. We were once again revisiting our favorite Thai climbing spot and chatting with other climbers about future plans when our now good friend Tamar planted the idea of buying horses in Mongolia. When I say planted, it was probably more stole/borrowed the idea from her.

The next couple of months while we were climbing throughout Asia we researched and planned our trip deciding on the Altai Mountains in West Mongolia as our starting point. Silvia was getting more and more excited about the prospect of travelling with animals and Pyn just wanted to buy a dog.

Olgii sits just outside Tavan Bogd the National Park within which the Altai Mountains are situated and it was here that our trip really started. We had already bought all our horse tack and some food in Ulaanbaatar the capital as there was no such market in Olgii. We transported about 80kgs of gear on the 40 hour bumpy bus from Ulaanbaatar to Olgii. The next step was to buy the animals, purchase a bit more food and get the permits.

After talking to almost all the travel agencies in Olgii we hit gold with a guy who would take us to buy the horses but also commit to buying them back off us when we had finished. The trade for the horses and camel went off without a hitch, although the animals were a bit skinny they seemed relatively calm and responsive while riding. We named our two horses Cosmo and Gobi, our camel Floppy and our dog Aktus.

Two days later we joined the horseman at his summer ‘house’ and started our epic journey.

Now I could continue about the whole month and go into detail about the many near disasters and the emotional rollercoaster we went on nearly everyday but so much happened that honestly my vocabulary and linguistic abilities wouldn’t be able to do it justice and so much would have to be left out.

Instead I’ve linked to our mostly unedited diary, a bit of bulking out here and there for context and the best bits highlighted in red. Click here to read the diary. Hope you enjoy.

Gobi Desert, South Mongolia

Gobi Desert, South Mongolia

After learning about long distance horse riding in Khovsgol, in the North we crossed the country and treated ourselves with a tour in a van.

We couldn’t leave Mongolia, without getting a taste of the Gobi Desert in South Mongolia. So we ventured out, guided by Urnaa, to see the highlights of Gobi Desert. We captured some of those in a short video:

Horse Trekking through Khoridol Saridag to Khovsgol Lake, North Mongolia

Horse Trekking through Khoridol Saridag to Khovsgol Lake, North Mongolia

Mongolia – The Land of Blue Sky

After hitch hiking across the China, Mongolia border we caught an overnight train arriving in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia refreshed and ready for adventure.

Mongolia was on both our bucket lists and was also the first country on this trip that neither of us had been before which made it more exciting. As an extra bonus, my brother, Yuin and his girlfriend Dawn were arriving from the UK and would be spending the next three weeks exploring with us.

We were quickly impressed by how modern Ulaanbaatar was and surprised that the selection of foods in the supermarket was actual superior to what we found in China.

In case you weren’t aware, Silvia and I were living in Singapore and have climbed and travelled overland through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China and now Mongolia which has taken about four months. This slow method of travelling has been really interesting watching the faces of the people change across such a large mass of land. Now here in Mongolia we were seeing the fusion of Chinese and Mongolian but also blue eyed locals with Turkish heritage.

The other changing aspect was the food. Especially in the less touristy areas you could see the cross over of the way food was cooked, with dumplings and buns we know from China and bread and jam or cabbage with sheep meat from Eastern Europe.

As Yuin and Dawn were visiting we wanted to pack in as much as possible so had booked two tours with a recommended guide called Urnaa who had recently set up her own guiding company, Wind Horse Tours.

The plan was to go North and complete a loop by horse through the Khoridol Saridag mountains, over a pass and back along Khovsgol Nuur, the largest fresh water lake in Mongolia. The whole trip would take 12 days and Urnaa reassured us that we would be well looked after as she was sending a translator, two horsemen and her brother!

The only one of us with any real riding experience was Dawn, the rest of us were keen but a bit wary as we had read that Mongolian horses, although small, can easily be spooked and also like to run. Our other concern was saddle sores from so many days consecutive riding.

Mongolian has a rich history with their horses and they considered a national treasure. They are extremely hardy and live outside all year round, grazing and searching for their own food. The Mongolians drink their milk and eat the meat, so they are really looked at as a working animal rather than a pet. 

After a 15 hr bumpy bus ride from Ulaanbaatar we arrived at the horse man’s house on the Southern tip of Khosvgol Nuur and were quickly introduced to our horses. We were happy that they all looked very healthy and strong! As two of the mares had recently given birth, their two foals would be joining us on the trek. We were taught that the horses respond to ‘Ousk’ for stop and ‘Choo’ for go and not with pressure from the heels like in the UK.

The first day we started climbing through the hills and forests which was great until after midday when the heavens opened and everybody got soaked. Horseriding in the rain isn’t pleasant and we took turns over lunch to dry ourselves over the fire.

Luckily after a few hours the rain passed and the blue skies returned. Mongolia was living up to its nickname and we were fortunate that this was the only rain during the whole trek.

Overall the trek was incredible, watching the scenery change through the mountains and then skirting along the edge of the lake for the final few days. Often we followed dried up river beds and paths through the forest and the horses were incredibly sure footed over any terrain. 

As the days passed on, the personalities of the horses became clear, Silvia and Dawn had horses that loved to run and Yuin and I had lazier horses that liked to eat everything and anything.

We had an amazing time, camping and cooking over open fires and catching up with Yuin and Dawn. To add to all this, the night skies were incredible, completely clear and full of stars. The saddle sores weren’t too bad and Khovsgol Lake was immense. 

Sorry for all the photos below, we got a bit snap happy.

Simatai – The Great Wall & More

Simatai – The Great Wall & More

So since sending our climbing gear to New Zealand we started to really travel and do your standard touristy things.

These days it’s a lot easier to travel in China with apps like CTrip and Pleco; combine this with the new high speed train network and the country doesn’t feel as big as it really is.

After leaving Xiamen we crossed the country to Shanghai and were both immediately shut down with flu knocking us out for 3 days. We’re pretty sure this is due to being stranded during the flood in Yangshuo, where we were trapped without electricity and water for 4 days.

We didn’t get out much but Pyn managed to catch the wedding market, which is held in a park and parents advertise their kids and look for prospective match making. An unusual approach but with there being 33.59 million more men than women in China, I guess an innovative approach is required.

We also picked up our three month travel anniversary present (any excuse), a DJI Spark, a small portable drone to add some grandeur to our videos. So stay tuned for some awesome footage.

Fast forwarding, we trained to Beijing to get our visas for Mongolia and were hit by cough inducing smog. Due to the Naadam festival in Mongolia the embassy was closed, so we had to spend longer in Beijing than we wanted. We made good use of the time, eating, cutting videos, planning Mongolia and visiting the Great Wall at Simatai.

In total we spent 5 weeks in China, 3 weeks climbing, another week being ill and on trains so only one week travelling. China is so big that you would need at least 6 months to scratch the surface. The little we did see was impressive, however it’s more difficult to go somewhere that doesn’t have hordes of local tourists and also hasn’t been redesigned to accommodate thousands of people everyday. We look forward to spending a month in West China in September and going further off the tourist trails.

Our exit from China was uneventful and long as usual, catching a bus to the Mongolian border and then hitchhiking across the border.

Fujian – UNESCO Tulous

Fujian – UNESCO Tulous

Climbing vs Travelling

For the last 3 months Silvia and I have revisited our favourite climbing spots and explored new ones with an ever growing family of climbers that have been travelling in the same direction.

Our first stage goal has always been to travel overland from Singapore to Mongolia and after we left Yangshuo we sent our climbing gear to New Zealand and replaced it with a tent, sleeping bags and a stove.

Climbing allows us to stay in an area for a good amount of time and really make it feel like home, however this doesn’t always equate to immersing yourself in the culture. Trying to send everyday doesn’t leave much time for seeing the local sites but you do get to see remote crags surrounded by nature and without any tourists.

The tradeoff is difficult and so begins the next stage in our journey without any climbing gear and focusing on travelling and being a tourist.

Next stop Fujian and the Unesco World Heritage Tulous an amazing set of structures. Continue with our adventure below.

Yangshuo Baby!

Yangshuo Baby!

We rejoined our Tonsai & Thakhek climbing family in the climbing mecca of Yangshuo, still in China. A picturesque tourist town in Guangxi with a McDonalds and Starbucks, it was a vast contrast to the sleepy farming village of Getu – video here.

We stayed in Yangshuo for three weeks and battled rain, stairs, floods and hard sends. Check it out below.

Enter The Motherland – Getu, China

Enter The Motherland – Getu, China

Why we came to Getu

We are mixing things up a bit and starting with the video! For more description and photos continue below.

For the first time in this trip we ventured into territories unknown. Pyn had unsuccessfully attempted to get into China about four years ago (it was on a whim and he didn’t have a visa) using the same route overland via Laos. (He did however manage to illegally swim to China across the border river from NE Vietnam later the same year, but that’s a different story)

This time we had played the stupid China visa roulette game and waited for two weeks in Chiang Mai to get the precious visa stamp. Both of us have independently travelled throughout South East Asia and therefore the last 3 months has been a lot of revisiting our favourite spots. South China was going to be a completely new adventure.

Without much planning we lucked out and boarded a sleeper bus going directly from Pak Nam Noy, Laos, through the Boten border to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, China.

Our sleeper bus from Laos to China

Our final destination would be the climbing mecca of Getu, which has been immortalised by the Petzl RocTrip of 2011. This would involve three more buses, a train and a bit of hitch hiking – in total about 36 hours of non stop travelling. The joys of travelling overland, although it did mean a good catch up on sleep.

We really didn’t know what to expect in Getu, there are a few blog posts and obviously the Petzl video, so when we arrived we managed to drive straight through the village without realising it. It was low season and the whole village main street was like a ghost town with only the farming locals going around their business.

Communication was interesting as they assumed Pyn could speak Chinese but actually Silvia can speak more words. Another slight concern was that none of the ATM’s we had tried on the journey would take any of our Singapore, Swiss or UK cards.

The view from the front of the arch

The main attraction of Getu for tourists and climbers is the Getu Arch also known as the Great Arch, a limestone cave going through the rock, standing at 50m high, 70m wide and 140m in length it’s massive! On top of that there’s another cave below it with a river running through it.

My lens wasn’t wide enough so heres somebody elses photo

For climbers it’s a bit off the beaten track and harder to get to than other China destinations like Yangshuo. When we arrived we realised we were the only climbers there. Luckily joining the party the next day was Amit an Israeli friend who we had climbed with in Thakhek and Tonsai. Two French girls also arrived and it was just the five of us climbing together for the whole week.

Pyn almost onsighting a 7a+
The five of us and our Chinese fan club

The approach to the cave involved crossing a river by boat and over 1,000 steps to get to the main cave. Of course Pyn forgot the harnesses in the hostel so had to climb the steps twice.

The view out of the front

Photos can’t do the cave justice but it was incredible ……….. the size, the scale and the fact you can climb up to 9b in the cave.

The view out of the back
The evening sun coming in.

We spent six days in and around the Getu Arch with only three of those climbing as we were constantly battling against the wet weather. The short time we did have there was amazing and we were grateful for having the opportunity to experience a true climbing Mecca.

Getu is a very rural area and the farming landscape and local karst hills are breath taking but Silvia wanted a Starbucks! (only joking). We really needed cash desperately and so we made a mad 12 hour dash with Amit to Yangshuo to join our Thakhek/Tonsai/Chiang Mai climbing crew.

Reunited with Amit

 

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